A New Year: Some Changes

The First Sunday of Advent, this year December 1st, is New Year's Day for the Church. It is the beginning of our liturgical year, and very appropriately in our Diocese we commence by giving priority focus to the celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We have a new General Instruction for the Roman Missal, and it is now law for the Church. It contains the norms and rubrics for the celebration of Mass, and it provides us a wonderful opportunity to achieve consistency of celebration and expectation through all our parishes and religious institutions.

The General Instruction is new, but it is not news. We have been preparing in our Diocese for well over a year for its implementation. Information sessions have been provided for all of our priests, deacons, religious, principals, directors of religious education, teachers, catechists, liturgical ministers. Parishes have had the opportunity and the materials to make our people fully aware of what is expected.

I am deeply grateful, and edified, by the terrific attendance that has been typical of these sessions. Educational programs will continue to go forward in our parishes. These programs should promote not only a stronger awareness of the rubrics but also an ever deeper appreciation of the Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life."

The changes involved are not radical or alarming. They really are clarifications of what is expected so that we might have more reverence and uniformity in our Eucharistic celebrations.

The General Instruction addresses a variety of concerns: rubrics for celebration, posture (kneeling, standing, sitting), architecture, appointments of the altar and sanctuary, position of the tabernacle, music, sacred vessels, vestments, etc. In October we mailed out a chart describing all that is involved to all the parishes and religious institutions in our diocese. In addition we provided in that mailing a copy of the new Norms for Holy Communion Under Both Kinds.

It is expected that all our parishes and religious institutions will follow these prescriptions.

At this point I would like to highlight a few directives which all should know, and which are effective December 1, 2002.

The faithful should stand from the words of the priest, "Pray, brothers and sisters," before the Prayer over the Gifts. This change of posture is made in order to assure that the faithful are standing for the start of the Prayer over the Gifts, similar to the posture for the other presidential prayers (the Collect, and the Prayer after Communion).

The faithful should kneel after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) through the Great Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer. The faithful are asked to remain kneeling through the singing of the Great Amen, in order to prevent the singing of this important acclamation from being interrupted by the change of posture anticipated by the faithful.

The faithful stand for the Our Father through the Lamb of God, then kneel until Communion.

The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. No communicant, however, should be denied Holy Communion because of kneeling. Communicants should bow before receiving Holy Communion, both before the Host and, if receiving from the chalice, before the Precious Blood.

Following reception of Holy Communion, the faithful may kneel or sit in their pews.

We can readily see that these changes are not earthshaking. They do make clear, however, what is expected for the rubrics of standing, kneeling, and sitting during the Mass.

Continued work and preparation are necessary to make our celebrations of the Eucharist increasingly more beautiful and meaningful. We must persist in assuring that reverence is achieved in every way possible. I would suggest that efforts along these lines would be excellent New Year's resolutions.

It is of paramount importance that our celebrations of the Mass allow all of us to experience the fullness of spiritual wealth that is the Mass. It is central to our faith. With the beginning of Advent may we come to deeper and richer lives of faith through our love for Word and Sacrament.

Happy New Year!

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
November 24, 2002